Canton mill News – Cody Bledsoe, who is only 21 years old, believed he had found his calling when he was employed in November at the Canton paper mill. After learning of the upcoming mill closure on Monday evening, Bledsoe stated, “I thought this was the job I was going to settle down and retire from, and now this. “That breaks my heart greatly. Just thinking about this makes it seem impossible.” The Canton paper mill has supported the county’s whole economy for decades by putting food on the table, buying Christmas presents, sending children to college, and paying for homes and cars. All of that was destroyed on Monday night when it was revealed that the mill would close in the early summer. Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers said on Monday night, “I am stunned and grieved for the men and women of our city who are going home to their spouses and children and are trying to find the words to convey they will not have a job very soon.
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“There is nothing I can say or do to make that situation more peaceful. .” Given the gravity of the mill closure, the town is still reeling in collective shock. “The Haywood County economy depends on this mill. There are a large number of families that have worked there for many generations “Trina Clark, a mill worker, remarked. The worst of it for Clark isn’t losing her job. For me, it’s more than just a wage, Clark added. “The personnel are like a family. To be completely honest, I would be lost without them.” Clark’s coworkers would be there in a hurry if she was stranded with a flat tire on the side of the road in the middle of the night, which is the ultimate test of a real friend. “The mill workers unite behind one another. I can’t tell you how many times staff members have stepped up to help one another out when someone is hurt, ill, or experiences a family emergency “added Clark. “It’s a community within that mill we are losing.”
The information was shared with mill managers in two separate sessions on Monday, the first at 4:30 and the second at 5:30. Many of them appeared numb and had hollow, lifeless faces as they left the meetings. Some were too emotional to speak to the media and had red, watery eyes. The enormity of the news was difficult for everyone to comprehend. Rank-and-file employees heard about it fast, and by the time evening fell, a pall had descended over the entire city of Canton. The mill has been extremely important to the town of Canton, according to Jason Hartline, a second-generation mill worker who has worked there for 17 years. It will have an impact on the entire county. Chain reversal Certainly, the mill’s closing will have an impact that goes far beyond the 900+ workers who will lose their employment at the Canton factory and perhaps another 200 at the Waynesville satellite site.
“Everything will change as a result. Ev-ery-thing,” said Lisa Riddle, whose dad worked at the mill for four decades. “The businesses are all going to go down.” Every industry and region in the county is impacted by the spending power of mill workers. The entire neighborhood goes dark when this mill shuts down, said to Daniel Friberg, a 37-year-old mill worker, around May or June. That will have an impact on peoples’ asset values. Nevertheless, the mill culture that penetrates the community’s fabric may be even more valuable. The steady flow of mill employees who passed through the ICU while Leeann Summey’s father Boney battled for his life for three months before being killed in a wagon train accident on Jonathan Creek five years ago is something she’ll never forget. Packs of them simply kept appearing, according to Summey. “They served as his adopted family. The worst part of it is that. The sense of belonging.”
Summey’s dad had worked at the mill for as long as she can remember, earning enough money to allow her mother to raise her three children while she was at home. She said, “Dad raised us on the mill. When I learned that it was closing, I sobbed. At the BP petrol station at the Canton I-40 exit, Summey has a job. On their way to and from work, mill workers frequently stop there. Many people had trouble expressing themselves when they passed through Monday night. Forlorn and dejected, clients would merely lock eyes and shake their heads in amazement frightened if they spoke the tears would start flowing again. Yet, Canton will continue to be known as a mill town, according to Smathers. Smathers gave the neighborhood a message of optimism by assuring them that everything is not lost. A mill is not a need for a community to qualify as a mill town, according to Smathers. “It is about having guts, character, and the capacity to triumph over adversity.
Each and every one of those qualities will be necessary as we navigate this economic catastrophe. Canton’s story is not over just yet. A chapter comes to an end here.” As word spread among mill workers Monday night some finding out through word-of-mouth, while others learned of their dismissal from online media reports some went to the union hall in downtown Canton in an effort to find out more information. After the back-to-back talks with managers, union leaders met with company representatives at 6:15 p.m. Like everyone else, union leaders had been in the dark about the coming closure. Also, it appears that the company meeting didn’t provide much insight. Following the meeting, a number of union leaders returned to the union hall where they were greeted by workers asking them questions for which there appeared to be no immediate answers. Among of those gathered at the union hall contemplating their futures included David Blevins and Christopher Creasman.
Creasman, who works in the goods services division, said, “We were taken by surprise. One of my two children is in middle school and the other is in high school. Before another worker entered and brought up the terms of the severance package one that would require staff to wait until the plant closed in order to receive he indicated he would begin seeking for work right away. Creasman is being laid off for the second time. During the Great Recession, he was handed a pink slip at a job site. The mill has only employed 25-year-old Blevins for eight months. To relocate closer to his family and pursue a profession, he quit a job at Vulcan in Asheville. Blevins wasted no time in getting in touch with his previous workplace to inquire about a possible return. I’m sure there will be a lot of individuals looking for work, he remarked. Logan Moore, a mill worker, is unsure of how he will find a job paying as much as he does now. Driving to Asheville will be his only option, he believes.
Moore, 28, predicted that there will be a lot more opponents now. “It just sucks for all of us.” Many mill workers are holding to the hope that a buyer will come forward to preserve the mill and keep it open. “If we can find someone who can buy this mill, we’d be in good shape,” added Friberg. However, Pactiv Evergreen corporate representatives have only stated that the mill would close, not that it was up for sale. The mill shut down its #20 paper machine last month due to a surplus of inventory in the market, demonstrating the decreasing nature of the paper sector. Pactiv Evergreen would not be keen to sell over a running mill to a would-be rival because it has paper heaped in its warehouse waiting for a customer to buy it. Trina Clark, a mill worker with a child to raise, hadn’t started planning her response to the news as of Monday evening. “That is the question that many of us are attempting to answer. We don’t know what we’re going to do other than wait it out “explained Clark. “That’s about all we can do at this point.”
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